Palin Needs 20+ Seconds To Name a Founding Father


This, from the leading Republican Presidential candidate in 2012. Even Glenn Beck(!) thought Sarah Palin's waffling on the question of her favorite founding father was "bullcrap." Another Katie Couric moment for Palin?

Tags: Sarah Palin, founding fathers, Glenn Beck (all tags)




This might be one of my favorite clips ever.  Look how far you can get in America without actually knowing anything.  The fact that Beck starts to chuckle and then softens up in agreement later is hilarious.

by Kyle Shank 2010-01-13 07:49PM | 0 recs

You can tell that she is searching as best she can for a name, and then she comes up with the one that a 3rd grader could name.  Eerily reminiscent of her "What newspapers do you read?" answer..."All of them."  That seems to be her lifeline on these questions...her way to BS while she filibusters until she thinks of a real answer.  This time she finally thought of an answer.  Congratulations Sarah Palin, you passed the 3rd grade.  Maybe now you can move on to reading newspapers.

by gorebeatbush2 2010-01-13 07:54PM | 0 recs
Yes, another "Katie" moment for Ms. Palin

Can't think of a Founding she couldn't think of one newspaper she read. Then falls back on the same answer... "All of them" and fumphers around trying to turn it into a semi-coherent comment. Can't. Geeshka.

by SuznAZ 2010-01-13 08:26PM | 0 recs
RE: Palin Needs 20+ Seconds To Name a Founding Father

I like the implication that her quitting as Gov. of Alaska is similar to Washington's resignation of the presidency.



Also, Glenn Beck is really letting himself go.

by JJE 2010-01-13 08:36PM | 0 recs
I'm pretty sure

that she can name a few of them. Her problem is more that she likely doesn't know much about any single one of them nor could she differentiate between them nor much less offer a concise view of their competing and often contradictory ideas. It's not like she has read the works of historians on the subject. It's not like the work of Gordon Wood, Jack Rakove, Joseph Ellis grace her library. Perhaps she caught HBO's series on John Adams but that may spell the limit of her exposure to US history of the Founding Era. Maybe she caught 1776 the musical. She may have had a class in college but more likely her last exposure came in high school. Not atypical for most Americans.

She picked Washington and spouted something about him not wanting to be "a king." Certainly that was a fear in the early Republic and amongst many of the Founding Fathers that the Presidency would evolve into a monarchy. So she got that right if only via an ineloquent stab in the dark.

But the concepts of "disinterestedness" or "virtue" are beyond her. These concepts were at the core of the very aristocratic nature of US politics in 1780s and 1790s. I am not even sure that she could articulate coherently the difference between Federalism and anti-Federalism nor coherently put her political philosophy within those traditions. Her grasp of history, however, is really not much different than the US population at large.

It's not that Beck is some luminary either but he seems at least curious to learn more and better able to differentiate between the Founding Fathers. His choice of Thomas Paine was amusing to say the least. Of all the Founders to pick, Beck chose the most radical and egalitarian and one of two weren't native born (the other non-native was Hamilton who perhaps the least radical and least egalitarian though Burr who give him a run for the money on those counts). It was Paine who first proposed a progressive income tax and a social insurance scheme not unlike Social Security. But the allure of "Common Sense" is just too powerful for conservatives because in the end that is all they can claim even if it is anything but common sense or innate wisdom.

But Obama too isn't much to tout in this respect. His historical literacy isn't much to shout about either. Back in 2005 right after being elected to the Senate, he gave an interview to the New Yorker. In it he talked about walking down a corridor in the Washington Capitol Hilton that was lined with the pictures of US Presidents and he mouthed off that he had no idea what most of them did or accomplished during their terms in office.

This from a Harvard trained constitutional lawyer. 

My area of expertise isn't the United States - I took very few classes on American history - but I have read extensively on the subject especially the last four years when suddenly trying to understand why the US was so different mattered increasingly. I recommend anything by the three aforementioned historians above as well as Walter McDougall, Saul Cornell and David McCullough on the Founding Era.

The AHA put a survey just a few weeks ago on the historical illiteracy of Americans. Here's the overview:

"This survey provides stark evidence that American citizens of the 21st century are increasingly— sadly, deplorably—ignorant of their legacy, their political and constitutional birthright of the l8th century. It is the mission of the American Revolution Center to remind, engage, educate, and finally, inspire succeeding generations through the priceless legacy bequeathed to them by our forefathers. The American Revolution Center is the most exciting and most promising national initiative on behalf of educating citizens about the Founding and foundation of our nation, and about the revolution itself, in a generation."

Sarah Palin is certainly not alone in her appalling ignorance. She is simply incurious. Education is dismissed because all one really needs is "commonsense conservatism." The problem of historical illiteracy is pervasive and perhaps reflective of a culture in decline. I have long held that civics and geography need to be returned to the high school curriculum. Sarah Palin's performance only further underscores that point.

And I'm still most amused that she had not idea what constitutionally-speaking the role of the Vice President was. That was indeed frightening. 






by Charles Lemos 2010-01-13 08:44PM | 2 recs


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